Teacher's aide fired after call about '65 killing of Sylvia Likens

Syliva Likens

An Iowa teacher's aide was fired Tuesday after school officials recently learned she was a member of an Indianapolis family who tortured and killed a girl in the basement of their home in 1965 in a notorious case later depicted in books and films.

Paula Pace had worked for the BCLUW consolidated school district based in the central Iowa town of Conrad since 1998. She was a teacher's aide at the district's high school.

Superintendent Ben Petty said the school board fired Pace for providing false information on her application. Petty said he could not comment further about the case. The board made the decision after meeting in special session to discuss the matter.

The district was notified by Grundy County Sheriff Rick Penning, who said his office received an anonymous telephone call last Wednesday informing him that Pace was Paula Baniszewski, formerly of Indianapolis, who had been convicted of manslaughter for participating in the torture and murder of 16-year-old Sylvia Likens in 1965.

"They wanted to make us aware of it because of the crime that was involved and because she was in the school system,'' Penning said. "We turned it over to the school and we're kind of out of it because there's no criminal offense per se.''

He said the caller indicated they had picked up on Pace's previous identity from a Facebook posting.

Penning said his officers investigated the case and found that Pace had completed her prison sentence and was released on parole.

The case has been referred to as one of the most notorious crimes in Indianapolis. The story has generated fiction and nonfiction books, a play and movies including the 2007 dramas "An American Crime'' and "The Girl Next Door.''

The case began when Sylvia Likens and her sister, Jenny, were left by their parents with Gertrude Baniszewski and her seven children in the summer of 1965. In the following months, Sylvia was beaten, burned with cigarettes, branded with a hot needle, and suffered other abuse. Her malnourished body was found in the basement of the home Baniszewski rented on Oct. 26, 1965. The cause of death was brain swelling and internal bleeding of the brain.

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